20 Aug 2014
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Patch Instagram photo by leeleela

Pet Peeves: Taking a Walk in the Heart

I take OP to see a very sick friend and watch my friend's comfort reborn like a drowned island rising from a deep, cold ocean.

Pet Peeves: Taking a Walk in the Heart Pet Peeves: Taking a Walk in the Heart Pet Peeves: Taking a Walk in the Heart Pet Peeves: Taking a Walk in the Heart Pet Peeves: Taking a Walk in the Heart

OP and I went to visit Ed, who has been getting sicker.

Ed always has a child's sense of wonder and joy about new visitors. But he's really been struggling with this last stage of illness. It was unclear how welcome we'd be.

Ed's rapidly rusting and sputtering ability to remember names, places, and even words for the simplest things choke his formerly smooth stride. It's like something bites him in the middle of a pleasant moment or humorous anecdote.

Luckily he knew us instantly and began talking right to OP.

"Is that OP? Is it? Would he like to come up?"

Minutes after we arrived, Ed asked to be moved from his bed to the comfy chair, where he and OP cuddled lovingly for hours.

If you ever wondered why qualified dogs are brought to hospitals, you should ask to watch a therapy dog visit the sick. That magical, therapeutic connection is as trippy as a ball lightning, but not rare nor out of the ordinary (like ball lightning).

(Quick aside: I saw ball lightning once in my life, in Maine, as the lightning hit a small forest of trees atop the island across from Harrington Bay. The lightning suddenly rolled into a giant ball of fire and rolled across the treetops and then fell down into the ocean where it hit like 20-second sunspot. The magical power of pets to heal is common phenomena, but it's still awe-inspiring.)

It's the reason little places like Sherman Oaks or Studio City have so many veterinarians and pet shops! Ed lost his restlessness and intermittent confusion for a long respite. We exchanged silly stories and laughed.

As a wise, Unitarian minister, David O Rankin said, "Comedy is the loss of faith in tragedy." Life is full of tragedy—usually melodrama, actually—and playful opportunities are sometimes limited. Therapy dogs bring an instantly playful atmosphere wherever they go.

It's universal, understood by all languages, most cultures, helpful to many conditions of stress and distress.

We played with OP, and with some of the zany new apps on my iPhone (see the picture I included of Ed as a manga cartoon character complete with Japanese printing); and we made OP do tricks for treats.

"Trick for treat!" Ed said, imitating a little trick-or-treater at the door.

In those same hours OP shared Ed's joy in living each moment, pausing to enjoy the simple sensations of a loving cuddle and scratches. Really, what else is important without that?

The big gift our pets bring is taking us off our own leashes for a walk in the heart.

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